21 more days until Huskies football. 21! That’s like three weeks.
As we continue our countdown, we dedicate this weekend to looking at the best of the best across the conference. We want to know: who do you like as the eventual P12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2019?
Here are the top candidates:
1. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon Ducks
They say that chicks dig the long ball. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Justin Herbert.
Say what you will about his inconsistency, but Herbert has a Howitzer where his right arm ought to be and he knows how to use it. While his 56% completion percentage from a year ago left something to be desired, his 7 pass plays over 50 yards a reminder that if a receiver can get open, he can make the play.
On top of that, Oregon just scores when he is in there. They’ve averaged over 38 points per game that he’s started since he took over and he currently owns the nation’s top TD streak entering the season with 28 straight games with a TD pass. If you also consider that he’s going to be constantly discussed as the top QB in the NFL draft, it seems a no-brainer that he would be an OPOY favorite.
2. WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado Buffaloes
The most dynamic playmaker in all of the PAC 12 last season burst on to the scene suddenly. In his first game as a full-time starter, Laviska Shenault Jr. caught 11 balls for 211 yards and a TD in a barn burner against rival Colorado State.
And he just kept going from there.
A mid-season injury slowed down what early on looked like a shoe-in OPOY kind of season for Shenault. This season, he returns with all of his health, all of his height, all of his ball skills and all of his versatility. He’s the 2019 version of N’Keal Harry and he looks like an excellent candidate to become the first receiver to win OPOY in the PAC since Marquise Lee did it in 2012.
3. RB Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
If there is just one word that we would affix to Benjamin’s name, that would be it. Coach Herm Edwards likes to find his horse and ride it. He’s done it at every level he’s ever coached at. Eno Benjamin with 1642 yards on 300 attempts was that horse last year.
And what a year it was. His 300 carries were the most in the PAC and a school record. His 81 first downs and 94 broken tackles both ranked as third most in the nation. He had 18 total TDs and a 300 yard game. And before you dismiss him as a grinder more than a playmaker, consider that his 31 explosive plays were fifth most in FBS.
Of course, he’s on every watch list and pre-season All-American list. That after finishing first team All PAC 12 and third team All-American last year. So, yeah, he’s a candidate.
4. RB Salvon Ahmed, Washington
Ahmed is not really on any radar screens at the moment. The media has been too busy grieving the graduation of Myles Gaskin when they talk about the Huskies rushing attack. But Dawg fans all know that Ahmed has the potential to blow up behind a QB who has the arm to stretch the field and an offensive line with a penchant for run blocking. Anything that gives Ahmed a sliver of breathing room at the first level is going to turn into big plays at the second level. He simply has a gear that we haven’t seen out of a Husky tailback since the days Napoleon Kaufman roamed Husky Stadium.
Whether or not Ahmed turns that potential into production remains to be seen. But if he can realize even half of his potential, he projects as one of the most explosive backs in the conference.
5. QB Khalil Tate, Arizona
It is easy to forget that it was just the season before last when Khalil Tate, then a mid-season QB replacement for Rich Rod’s last Wildcat team, took the nation by storm. He finished 2017 with 29 total TDs and averated 145 yards per game passing to go along with a ridiculous 128 yards per game rushing. Even in an injury plagued 2019, Tate put up some good passing numbers upping his TD/Int ration from 14/9 to 26/8.
When healthy, Tate is a 6’2” 215 lb terror with a rocket arm and running skills that make most conference RBs blush. He might be a little hamstrung by the receiving situation at Arizona, but that is only if none of his physically gifted young receivers fail to break out. He should not be discounted.
Others Receiving Consideration:
QB Jacob Eason, Washington; RB Zack Moss, Utah; RB Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State, QB Gabe Gabrud, WSU
Who will win the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year?
This poll is closed
QB Justin Herbert
WR Laviska Shenault
RB Eno Benjamin
RB Salvon Ahmed
QB Khalil Tate